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Electrophoresis Safety Tips

The power supply in electrophoresis equipment runs at a sufficient enough voltage and amperage to deliver an electric shock that could be fatal. The electric shock can also cause burns, damage to the skin, muscles, and nerves. 

by Washington State University
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When using electrophoresis equipment, there is always the potential for injury. To avoid receiving a shock that can lead to injuries or even death, you should inspect the equipment before use and follow the general guidelines outlined below.

Inspect equipment before use:

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1. Inspect power cords and leads for frayed, cracked or dried out cords; exposed copper wire at the banana jacks (caused by pulling on the wire instead of the jack when trying to remove the jack); and corroded or loose fitting banana plugs, banana jacks or electrode connection nut, which may cause electrical arcing between the plugs, resulting in fire or irreversible results.

2. Discard and replace all cords that do not pass the inspection. Some manufacturers recommend replacing banana jacks annually.

3. Inspect gaskets on vertical electrophoresis chambers to ensure they are not leaking. If leaks are found, contact the manufacturer for replacement gaskets.

4. Inspect the electrophoresis chamber for buffer leaks, caused by crazing or cracks in the plastic. Loss of buffer can lead to electrical arcing and fires.

5. Inspect the safety guards to ensure proper function, including no load sensors, open load sensors, and ground leakage detectors on the power supply and safety interlocks on the cover.

General guidelines that should be followed:

1. Turn the power off before connecting the electrical leads.

2. Connect one lead at a time, using one hand only.

3. Ensure that hands are dry while connecting leads.

4. Keep the apparatus away from sinks or other water sources.

5. Turn off power before opening lid or reaching inside chamber.

6. Do not override safety devices.

7. Do not run electrophoresis equipment unattended.

8. If using acrylamide, purchase pre-mixed solutions or pre-weighed quantities whenever possible.

9. If using ethidium bromide, have a hand-held UV light source available in the laboratory. Check working surfaces after each use.

10. Mix all stock solutions in a chemical fume hood.

11. Provide spill containment by mixing gels on a plastic tray.

12. Decontaminate surfaces with ethanol. Dispose of all cleanup materials as hazardous waste.